Egyptian NGO Gondwana last week began a campaign to clean up and beautify streets in Cairo, beginning by planting trees along a street in Zahraa El-Maadi.
The campaign aims to make Egyptian cities greener, safer, and improve their harmony with the environment, and is focused for the moment on Zahraa, with plans to move to other parts of the capital if the initiative is successful.
The first event, held last Saturday, saw volunteers tidying up and planting trees along Zahraa's El-Khamseen Street.
They planted around 50 poinciana trees, 100 guava trees and 100 duranta trees to decorate the fences and edges of the street's garden area. They also planted asparagus, flowers and other plants, all selected after consultation with the agriculture ministry on their suitability for the area.
Gondwana, which takes its name from the continental landmass that split from Pangaea millions of years ago and would later form North and South America, Africa and Australia, is an NGO focused on development.
Geologist Mahmoud Abdel-Moneim, a co-founder, told Ahram Online: “The choice of the places [for the initiative] is made via certain criteria. We sat as a team together and discussed the need of these sites, the type of soil, lighting, water…to ensure the plants would stay healthy and would receive proper care.”
“All the plants and trees helped to decrease the high temperature and do purification for air from dust," he continued. "They give a beautiful view.”
He notes that the NGO worked on raising awareness, and also made the planting a family activity “so parents and their children can get involved in the experience and do planting by themselves.”
Waleed Mahmoud, who works in a bank, brought his ten-year-old daughter Hala to the event. Mahmoud, who lives in El-Khamseen Street, said he found out about the event from Facebook.
"We as a family love plants. In our home, we have a small garden. It brings happiness and health to our house.”
Hala added, “I love plants and the colour green very much."
Team members had organised with El-Basateen district administration to clean up and remove trash and debris from the street. They also cooperated with the agriculture ministry and the environment ministry in planning the initiative.
One of the co-founders of Gondwana, Engy Sabri, commented: “This initiative coincides, by coincidence, with the launching of the presidential environmental awareness campaign ‘Ethadar lel Akhdar’ or ‘Prepare for the Green.’”
Sabri has been working in the environmental field for 20 years now.
“We tried to do recycling for unused waste like old tyres. It is too difficult to get rid of them. They cause a lot of harm and air pollution.”
Around seven men and women volunteers worked together in cleaning, painting and converting tyres into planters for flowers.
“We are keen on gender equality." Sabri said. "The women volunteers were from El-Haranayeh village in Giza, and they make money from cleaning tyres.”
Another volunteer, Yasser Iman, is a student in the Faculty of Agriculture at Al-Azhar University.
“I love helping others and doing good deeds. It warms my heart," he said.
Head of Al-Basateen District Administration Mahmoud Diaa Eldin said, “The park administration will care and look after newly planted trees and shrubs, including watering, pruning and shaping the plants. We provided them with workers to remove dirt and waste and prepare the land for gardening.”
Another volunteer, Abdullah Mamdouh, came from far away to take part in the event.
"I love volunteer work," he told Ahram Online. "I love to spend my spare time on something useful.”
The initiative plans to take its plants to El-Shatr Street and Street 13 in the area next, and after that, to other areas of the capital.